Saturday was the day of the big half marathon!
Matt and I drove up to my parent’s place Friday after work. We got up there in time for a nice dinner with my parents and then a couple hours of Rock Band. They’ve been practicing! Dad’s kicking butt on the drums AND guitar now, and Mom’s doing awesome on vocals. I’ll typically either play the guitar (bass or regular guitar, I’m not picky) or vocals. Anyway, we played until the foot pedal on the drum set broke during a particular tough song (Reptilia by the Strokes… boy is that tough on the wrists for the bass guitarist!). He immediately ordered another one. 🙂
Some friends of mine and Matt’s (Beth and Shep) met us at Mom and Dad’s around 11:30 and we collectively hit the hay about then. It was pretty late and we did have to get up for the race the next day, after all. Beth was the only other one running, but Mom, Dad, Matt, and Shep were all going to go to cheer us on.
Race day morning was about what I expected. We sat around too long enjoying breakfast and each other’s company…we’re talkers once you get us going…so we had to scramble a bit to get to the race start in time.
The weather had had us a little concerned, but when race day dawned, it decided to shine. It was perfect. It was in the upper 40s or lower 50s. Blue sky, puffy clouds, a bit of a breeze. Just beautiful. I opted to wear running tights for comfort and to keep a bit of compression on my knees. (My right knee was still bothering me a bit after having hyper-extended it a bit on the treadmill earlier in the week.) I wore a green t-shirt for visibility and for St. Patrick’s Day, and a great big felt hat shaped like a mug of beer (also for visibility and St. Patrick’s Day…and for fun). I also took my race-day pack with me to carry my iPhone and my Gu. (My race-day pack is basically a tiny, somewhat glorified fanny pack. Looks a bit goofy, but it’s functional, light, and doesn’t hurt my back…plus, I had a giant beer on my head…nobody was going to be judging my choice of running accessories.)
We got to the school where the race started just in time to pick up our packets, use the facilities, strap on a knee brace I borrowed from Matt, and pin our numbers on. We got out to the road where everyone was lining up, stretched for about 45 seconds and then it was time to go!
It was a little odd. All the training and pasta and preparation and concern about my knee, and when it came right down to it, that day, I wasn’t nervous at all. I wasn’t worried about finishing the run in the time I wanted to make. I wasn’t at all concerned about being able to finish it. I wasn’t even all that worried about whether or not my knee would hold out or how sore I’d be later. I was just looking forward to a nice long run. I said so to Dad just before we got started when he came over for one last fist bump before the starting gun. It was a nice feeling.
Beth and I started nearly last in the pack, which was just fine with me. Pretty hard to get run over when you’re in the back. Plus, I like seeing the really fast runners stretch out in front once we get around a bend or two. It’s incredible to see how fast some people can run. I noticed something rather odd in the first mile. That’s where people are setting their paces and the pack is thinning out…when you can start getting a look at the other runners. Nobody was running in costume! I was really surprised since it was the Saturday before St. Patrick’s day.
This was actually Beth’s first race of any sort. Imagine starting with a half marathon! Gutsy, huh? She’s been running a lot longer than I have, though, and is built like a runner. Tall, long legs, willowy, etc. I’ve seen her run before once, when we got together at the beach to do a long training run. She’s a lot better at it than I am. Still, she was concerned about finishing. I knew darn well that she’d do great, and that she’d finish before me (and I told her so). Still, we started out running together for the first half to three quarters of a mile before she started pulling ahead. I was really tickled for her – she did great while I could see her (and after she was out of my line of sight, too).
I lost sight of her right about mile 2.5. That was when the first really bad hill loomed up. I say first because most of the damn course turned out to be hills. The course description had been very light on details. “Some rolling country roads” was about all the information that we got. Sounded pretty gentle to me, and I’ve run on the roads close to my parents’ place. The course wasn’t that far from their house, so I figured that Mom and Dad’s rolling country roads would be a good approximation. Boy, I was wrong.
Like I said, the first bad hill was right around mile 2.5. It was a steep incline with a bend to the left. When I finally shuffled to the top, I could see down the short decline to where the next hill started. It was even bigger than the first one. In short, the course was all hill. There were a few bits that were relatively gentle inclines or declines, but the vast majority of the thing was hill. So for future reference, “rolling country roads” translates roughly into “bring climbing gear.”
Up until that first bad hill, I’d been going along at a nice 10:30 pace and was really pretty tickled about it. I knew that if I kept it up, I’d make my New Year’s Resolution of running a 2 hr 20 minute half marathon! And even if I didn’t, I still stood a chance of shaving some decent minutes off of my time from the last half marathon. I think I hoped until around mile 6 or so when it was good and apparent that the hills were not going to stop. I kept thinking that maybe the downhill bits would help make up for the slower uphill parts, but the running hills is HARD. At that point, I thought it was a good thing that I wasn’t there with my heart set on breaking any personal records that day. (Also around mile 6, I inexplicably started craving a beer. I suspect it was the hat…)
It’s a good thing Matt gave me a knee brace for race day. I had never run in one before, and I was a little concerned about it chafing despite the fact that it was on over my running tights, but we figured that if it bothered me after a mile or two, I could pull it off and chuck it on the side of the road to be retrieved later. It wound up not chafing me at all, which was great since I think I really needed it. By the time mile 10 rolled around, whenever I slowed to a walk to get up a particularly unpleasant stretch of hill, I was favoring that knee a good bit. (That was also about the same time that I looked up and saw the turkey buzzards circling. Seriously. Yikes.) I hate to think what it would have been like without it. Once again, Matt was right.
Besides the hills, the run was really very uneventful for me. It was a very small event in PA, so there weren’t as many volunteers or spectators as I’ve seen at other races in the past. Maybe the small size of the event was the reason for the conspicuous lack of costumed runners. I was really hoping (and expecting) there to be some neat St. Patrick’s day costumes. As it turned out, my big funny hat was about all the costume there was to be seen. It did make people smile, and I was glad of that at least. But being the one runner with funny attire, I drew more attention that I expected (and am strictly comfortable with). The race photographers loved me, lol. Every time I ran by one, a great big camera lens swung my way. Even the volunteers at corners occasionally whipped out cameras and snapped photos. Not exactly what I had in mind, but hardly unforeseeable. So, now there are photos of me out there somewhere in which I am sweaty and gross and wearing a great big hat that looks like a giant beer. Peachy. LOL.
I finished the run in 2 hours 40 minutes and 6 seconds (I think…I was kinda tired when I came in, but I think that’s what the great big digital timer said). When I crossed the finish line, I was oddly unable to stop. My legs were still set on go. Even stranger was that they didn’t seem to particularly care what direction they were going in as long as they were still moving. Matt came right up and I tried to give him a hug, but my legs gave out a little and he had to catch me. We got me upright again and I started unintentionally walking backwards. Now THAT was a weird feeling.
Beth came in about 10-15 minutes before I did, which was exactly how I thought she’d do. I figured she’d get a mile or so ahead of me by the end. 🙂
We all headed into the school where the race was anchored for the awards ceremony (it was already started when I finally rolled in). I really wasn’t all that interested in the ceremony. I was tired and filthy and wanted to go home, but it was good to get inside to use the facilities. The ceremony was probably centered around the girl who had broken the course record that day. A 19 year old had beaten out an Olympic level runner to do it. Good for her – pretty damn impressive! 🙂 Plus, I’m hoping that the newspapers were more impressed with her considerable accomplishment than they were amused with my big funny hat. As long as they are, my beer-laden head will avoid being plastered over the local section of the papers. That would be nice.
After the race, we loaded back into our vehicles and headed back to Mom and Dad’s place. On the way back, I drank a protein shake that Mom had made for me – it was surprisingly tasty. And shockingly filling. Usually when I finish a long run, I wind up eating all the food I can get my little hands on. I’ll literally come out of the kitchen with a double-armload of whatever I can carry, then sit down and go Hungry-Hungry-Hippo on it. No so this time. After drinking that protein shake, I was pretty much OK. I was still thirsty, but I wasn’t hungry. I have got to get me some of that stuff!
When we got back, Beth and I got cleaned up and we got started with the rest of the weekend. We intended to have something of a party, but we failed to realize just how tired we’d all be when the race was done. The “party” wound up being just us hanging around, drinking, eating, watching TV, and occasionally dozing. Not exactly loads of excitement, but it was nice.
In retrospect, I’m not unhappy with my race time. I would have really liked to have done better, but given the difficulty of the course, I think it’s great that I was able to maintain my time. I think that shows improvement. The half marathon I did first was beautifully flat. There were some very gentle inclines and declines, but it was nearly all flat – basically, the polar opposite of the one I did this past weekend. If I’m going to make my New Year’s Resolution goal of 2 hrs 20 min for a half marathon, I’m going to have to keep training and pay more attention to the course type!
There is some very solidly good news – I am in pretty darn good shape post-race. It’s two days after the race, and my feet don’t hurt! I have some mild to moderate muscle soreness in my legs and my right knee is a bit stiff, but nothing that a little ibprofen can’t handle. Looks like I get to keep all my toenails this time, too! Super awesome 🙂 My only race injuries were a bloody toe (ran right through the skin…didn’t even feel it and it never did bother to hurt), and about a six square inches of skin lost over my rib cage due to chafing in the chest area (this has been a pretty consistent issue with my sports bras and it’s past time to find a solution…that’ll be a priority over the next round of training).
I’m already hunting for the next half marathon to do. I might have time to do one before June, but it’ll be pretty tough for me to get one in for a couple months after June for a variety of reasons. I’m using the next two weeks to recover – so no running for two weeks – but I will be doing some planning and deciding which one to try next.
Overall – good run! Looking forward to the next one! 🙂